Are you planning to celebrate Duke Ellington’s timeless music and Patti LaBelle’s other worldly vocal range? Then don’t wait; the Broadway experience, After Midnight, ends with the 3 p.m. matinee, Sunday, June 29, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St., (btw Broadway & 8th Ave.).
If winning awards kept productions on Broadway, then After Midnight should put down permanent roots. After Midnight, cleaned up during the Great White Ways’ award season gathering up several trophies including: a Tony Award for Best Choreography (Warren Carlyle), a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue and Best Choreography, an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Choreographer, a Fred & Adele Astaire Award for Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show (Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Karine Plantadit tied for the honors) and an award for Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show (Jared Grimes).
After Midnight won another honor this month when West 47th Street, where the revue is performed, was renamed Duke Ellington Way on June 4. Ellington’s granddaughter, Mercedes, was on hand to help with the unveiling.
Also this month, the whole cast of After Midnight opened the Tony Awards’ broadcast performing “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” with host, Hugh Jackman. But then a few weeks later, this phenomenal celebration of dance and song announced it was closing its doors. Low ticket sales during weekday performances, according to the cast and crew, led to the demise of After Midnight, a production that should be required viewing for all jazz and theater lovers.
The 17-veteran musicians – handpicked by Wynton Marsalis, 42 dancers and several not-to-be-ignored singers make After Midnight a great opportunity for audiences of different generations to discover or relive 26 of Ellington’s classics songs.
Grammy-winning R&B singer, Fantasia, opened this 90-minute show in October, as the featured soloist. Fantasia had a short run and returned for an additional stint, after performances by kd lang, Toni Braxton with Babyface, and Vanessa Williams.
LaBelle added her own seasoning to the same songs her predecessors performed in After Midnight when she sang a restrained yet soulful rendition of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Stormy Weather,” “Zaz Zuh Zaz,” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”
It had been announced that Gladys Knight and then Natalie Cole would take over lead singer duties for LaBelle in After Midnight, but other than seeing Knight perform with LaBelle and Fantasia at the Tony’s, fans won’t get to enjoy other powerhouse singers in the final performances of After Midnight.
If you get to see After Midnight before it ends look for the singing and tapping talents of Dulé Hill, of “The West Wing” fame as the Master of Ceremony; the song stylings of Adriane Lenox, and the poplocking and moonwalking of Julius “iGlide” Chisolm, and Virgil “Lil’ O” Gadson. Let’s hope the producers can take this show on the national tour that’s being discussed.